Managing Family Holiday Stress

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT

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Being with family over the holidays can be very stressful. Here are some strategies for taking charge and directly managing the stress that this time of the year can bring.

Be positive and complimentary whenever you can. Don’t make things up, be realistic; however, remember that positivity breeds positivity and it may lead to a friendlier atmosphere for the family.

Avoid divisive subjects. Find ways to change the discussion or even leave the room.  This is not a time to solve the world problems or dissect the latest election.

Answer the question: Is it more important to have family harmony or win an argument? Arguing rarely is helpful and yet it is important to stand up for yourself and sometimes for others. Prolonging a discussion after making a statement may not be helpful in the long-run. If you really need to state your opinion, do so respectfully, listen and then, if at all possible, find ways to let go.

Stand up for your spouse or children with your own family. If another family member makes a disparaging remark, calmly but directly, let them know that it is not okay with you to talk or treat your family in that way. If at all possible, try not to get into a prolonged confrontation where apologies are demanded, often that leads to more conflict. If you need to, find a way to leave the gathering early.

Try to position yourself around the relatives that you like and enjoy. Don’t make it too hard on yourself. If you find Uncle Charlie irritating, be friendly, but then sit near others. Remember, you don’t have to like everyone.

If alcohol is served, limit how much you drink. Plan to keep your good thinking in place.
Remember, this is only for a short period of time. You do not have to remain forever. It will be over and you can go back to your safe, comfortable surroundings with those who love and respect you and share your ideas and values.